Pai Gow Poker strategy

Pai Gow Poker strategy - basics

Pai Gow Poker offers something for every style of gambler - if you're a low, medium, or high stakes punter and whether or not you're experienced at Poker.

Below, we explain everything you need to know to become a winning Pai Gow Poker player. Check out our recommended strategies, then try them out risk-free by clicking on our free practice game (see foot of page).

There's no catch - you can play for free, without downloading, and without registration!

Optimal Pai Gow strategy

Learning how to win at Pai Gow Poker comes down to understanding three basic elements and combining them to suit your own personal style:

  1. Pai Gow strategy - general rules for setting any seven card hand;
  2. The House Way - the way the casino instructs its dealers to set their hands;
  3. The Bonus bet - betting on your hand, regardless of how you set it.

1a. Strategy for most hands

The temptation for players of Pai Gow poker is to see hands in straight poker terms. The secret to winning Pai Gow poker is in remembering that you have to win both hands in order to win the bet.

The player's basic strategy in Pai Gow poker is therefore to

set the two-card hand (front) as high as possible, whilst still leaving a higher five-card hand (back).

If this isn't possible, and would leave you with two weak hands, set a 'stopper' or 'blocker' by setting the back hand as high as possible and leave a weak front hand. This won't win, but will hopefully stop the bank winning, giving you a chance to bet again.

If your hand is just single cards (ie nothing - no pairs, straights, flushes) all you can do is set your 2nd and 3rd highest cards as the front.

If you have a single pair, put the highest two single cards as your two-card hand e.g. if your hand is K,10,10,9,5,3,2, split them into K,9 and 10,10,5,3,2.

This strategy will cover the majority of hands you'll be dealt and is a good way to get to grips with the basics of the game.

1b. Advanced Strategy

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2 pair

Always split, unless:

1. Two pairs of 6s or below - don't split.
2. The hand contains an ace - play the ace behind.

3 pair

Always play the highest pair in front.

3 of a kind

1. If three Aces, play a pair of Aces behind and Ace high in front.
2. Otherwise, play the three of a kind behind and the remaining high cards in front.

Straight / Flush / Straight flush

Set the back as whichever hand gives the better front.

Full House

Set the three of a kind behind and the pair in front.

2 sets of 3-of-a-kind

Split the higher set into a pair and a single  - play the pair in front and play the smaller 3-of-a-kind behind. For example, with K,K,K,10,10,10,5 you should play K,K and 10,10,10,K,5..

Four of a kind

1. If 2 to 6, play it behind.
2. If 7 to 10, split into pairs, unless a pair or an ace and a face card can be played in front.
3. If J to K, split into pairs, unless the hand also contains a pair of 10s or higher.
4. If Aces, split into pairs, unless a pair of 4s or higher can be played in front.

Royal Flush

1. Play behind.
2. If Royal flush with two pair, split as per two pair rule.
3. Split, if an A, K or a pair can be played in front and a straight or flush behind.

5 Aces

Split, unless a pair of Ks can be played in front.

2. The House Way

The House Way is the set of instructions each casino gives its dealers on how to set their seven card hands. Most online casinos offer a House Way button so that you can automatically take advantage of this set of rules.

What's important here is understanding that the House Way isn't set to win all the time, but to keep losses down so that the casino wins in the long term. In other words, the House Way is a safety option, probably best suited to new players
and low-risk punters.

Another important point is that some House Way buttons automatically play the hand once it's set. Others set the hand, but give you the option of whether to play it that way or not. This may not seem much, but it affects your overall strategy.

3. The Bonus Bet

Playing Bonus or Fortune Pai Gow gives you the opportunity to stake an extra bet on the Bonus. If you bet on the bonus, then you'll win up to 8000 times your stake if your seven cards contain a bonus hand (Straight or above). To see exactly how much you can win, check out our Pai Gow odds and payouts table.

The payouts are big, but don't come anywhere near the odds against, so the house edge is substantial.

This won't suit low and medium risk punters. However, if you're a high-roller, and prepared to take the risk, the Bonus bet adds enormously to the fun and excitement of Pai Gow Poker.

It's the way we play!

The best casinos for Pai Gow Poker

Check out the casinos below for the best Pai Gow games currently available.

Online Pai Gow Poker guide

Pai Gow is an unusual card game that can best be described as like Blackjack for Poker players - you play against the dealer, but have to form two Poker hands.

Although simple, there is plenty scope for players who want to develop an optimal playing strategy.

To help take you from beginner through to an expert Pai Gow Poker player, we've put together a comprehensive guide, that tells you everything you need to know:

Pai Gow Poker basics

An explanation of the rules of Pai Gow Poker. In Pai Gow Poker, you're dealt seven cards which you have to make into two Poker hands - the Front (2 cards) and the Back (5 cards).

The dealer does the same. To win, both your hands must beat the dealers.

Pai Gow Poker odds

The odds and probabilities of forming any poker hand from the seven dealt.

And if you're playing Bonus/Fortune Pai Gow, what chance have you got of picking up a bonus?

Pai Gow Poker practice game

Practice your new-found Pai Gow strategy skills on this free play game which you can play without downloading, on your mobile, tablet or desktop.

You'll get 1,000 play money credits and as long as you want to practice!